B Duane Cross
Tuesday April 20th, 2004

Many e-mailers have questioned my steadfastness in defending San Diego Chargers quarterback Drew Brees. For starters, Marty Schottenheimer has never been known as a QB guru. His quarterbacks have averaged 2,679 yards passing, 14 touchdowns and 10 interceptions during his 17 full seasons. Brees' numbers (in the two seasons he's been a starter): 2,696-14-15.

Hey, Marty is a good coach. He ranks ninth in regular-season wins with 165, one behind Paul Brown, and Schottenheimer has led his teams to the playoffs 11 times. Since 1960, only four coaches have done it more: Don Shula (19), Tom Landry (18), Chuck Noll (12) and Bud Grant (12). But let's not lose sight of the fact no quarterback has flourished in Marty's offensive system; only one Schottenheimer-coached QB (Bernie Kosar, fourth in passing yards, 1986) has finished among the top five in any of the major offensive categories in a single season.

On the other hand, Brees is 10-17 as a starter. For a team that is 12-20 during that time, I'll take my chances with the guy who has started 83 percent of the victories. Do not get caught up in the hype that San Diego was hosed in 2001 when it traded out of the No. 1 position, which ultimately landed Michael Vick in Atlanta, while the Chargers got "only" LaDainian Tomlinson, CB Tay Cody (via the Falcons' third-round pick), WR Reche Caldwell (the Falcons' second-round pick in '02) and WR Tim Dwight.

I believe Brees can be an effective NFL quarterback. His numbers through three years stack up favorably with some of game's greats, including former Chargers QB and Hall of Famer Dan Fouts.

But first things first: The Chargers need to add a few more playmakers on both sides of the ball and address the team's coaching shortcomings -- and not necessarily in that order.

Now, let's get to the e-mail -- and yes, I was serious about the Patriots taking a head-case running back. I just didn't know it would be Corey Dillon ...

I realize you say this mock draft is just an opinion, but you also get paid to have a more fully developed opinion than the rest of us. Why would the Patriots ever draft Maurice Clarett? The Pats have been built on good character, hard-working, blue-collar guys; Clarett doesn't fit any of those traits. As I write this, two very important things have come to light that make Clarett a moot point. He has been ruled ineligible, and the Pats traded for a running back, Dillon, who may not fit the mold as I called it, but they didn't waste a first rounder on him. And he is a proven 1,000-yard back, whereas Clarett never even finished a full season in college. -- Nick, Atlanta

Nick was one of about 2,500 e-mailers who took exception to Clarett being the 32nd pick in the previous mock draft. And it's amazing how quickly the tune of the e-mails changed when Dillon was brought into the fold. The thinking went from, "The Patriots don't need a head case running back," to e-mails echoing Nick's sentiments: "Well, Dillon may be a head case, but he's our head case -- and Bill Belichick and get him straightened out." Good luck with that.

If the Saints draft Jonathan Vilma, the fans will be dancing on Bourbon Street naked! Oh, wait a minute ... they'll do that anyway! -- Adam, New Orleans

Been there, done that. Wait a minute ... don't believe I'd told dat! Could it be that Jim Haslett is looking to revive the old-school Dome Patrol? After trading for CB Jason Craft, 'backer seems to be a logical first-round choice for N'Awlins.

Why is it you feel the Giants are going to trade up to the No. 1 spot [and draft Eli Manning]? Kerry Collins has a minimum of five great years left in him. The Giants need a tackle; I wouldn't be surprised if we traded with the Raiders for their pick to get Robert Gallery. -- Rich, Pensacola, Fla.

If Collins has five great years left in him, my question is this: What's taking him so long to get them out of his system? Should the G-Men and Chargers swap picks, Manning is the choice; the Giants' offseason signings have been mainly along the O-line.

I think that the Seahawks would be better served by drafting a linebacker in the first round. Veterans Chad Brown, Anthony Simmons and Randall Godfrey are great players but are getting older. Jonathan Vilma, D.J. Williams or Karlos Dansby would be a perfect spark to back up and gain experience for the future. -- Tyson, Pullman, Wash.

I'll give you Brown, who will be playing his 12th season in 2004, and Godfrey is a free agent, but Simmons signed a five-year, $23 million deal before last season. Orlando Huff is set in the middle and youth is needed at LB, but the Seahawks' two starting DTs are a pair of sixth-round picks: former free agent Cedric Woodard and 2003 draft pick Rashad Moore. Getting a DT in Round 1 and looking LB with the 53rd pick (Teddy Lehman, Michael Boulware or Dontarrious Thomas) would be a good start for Seattle.

Where is Oklahoma State's Rashaun Woods? No other receiver in the country has put up the numbers he has the last three seasons. Texas' Roy Willams has been out-preformed by Woods the last two seasons. This past season Rashaun was hampered by a balanced offense. He consistantly drew double- and even triple-teams as Tatum Bell plowed through open feild. Had the Cowboys' offense had to rely on the air attack, Woods could have been just as amazing as Larry Fitzgerald. Woods should -- and most likely will be -- a first-round pick. -- Rance, Stillwater, Okla.

To address your first question, I dunno -- Where is Rashaun Woods? I haven't seen him lately, but tell him I said hello, if you see him. Woods is a talent, but there are only 32 choices in the first round and not every team needs a WR. Now, it can be argued that every team could use a Rashaun Woods, but the fact is a handful of receivers will go in Round 1. For Woods' sake, I hope he does. In fact, I wish every draft hopeful could go in the first round, but we can't all be Grantland Rice, either.

So without further ado, outlined against a blue, gray April sky, here is an updated mock:

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